1. Bright Was He
It was too bright in the great hall for me, who has walked quiet these years through the dusk beside my stout friend and his sharp axe, across the leagues of the South. Further up the table, I saw my friend still drinking heartily. But between one course of sticky confections of dried fruit and liquor and the next, I wound my way amongst the other guests who had risen to mill about, and made my escape to a balcony off an antechamber to the hall.
The footfall behind sounded softly, twice, before I recognised it.
"It is hard," Aragorn said, "that we have drawn you here on this night of all nights. The darkest night, when you are late returned from the dark of Aglarond."
"Nay," I turned and said. "In the caves I feared I would never see the stars again. But this is the Starkindler's greatest feast." I thought then that I heard the peculiar sharp ring of a dwarven boot upon the marble floor within, and I added hastily, "Though the caves were a glory -- he spoke more than truly. They glittered brilliant as a clear night sky, though I found them cold in the end. They had not Elbereth's light, in truth."
He nodded, and I saw his eyes had been steadily upon me as I spoke. He stepped forth, the silver of the tree on his livery glinting, and laid a hand upon my shoulder. "The roads away are chill and slippery now, and comfort scarce in the open," he said. "And you have been away so long. Will you not abide here with me for a time, at least until the frost is off the roads? Come hunting, sing me a song of your travels? Persuade our friend within to rest his boots and shine his axe?"
*With me* he had said, with his hand on me, cold though it was from the chill air of the balcony.
"Aragorn," I said helplessly.
He pulled me to him, and now it was warm, and he smelled of fine cologne and wardrobe cedar, not worn leather and heady mortal sweat as he had used to, but still there was that note of himself beneath, cardamom and lime and pepper.
For a long moment he held me, his fingers in my hair as my heart beat treacherously. And then he whispered, breath warm against my ear, "She knows."
Perhaps he felt me stiffen in fright, for his arms tightened around me. "She knows, dear one, and she permits it," he said.
"What are you saying to me?" I said.
"I am saying," he said, "find me again later, when the vigil has begun. And let us slip away." And he kissed me, and he tasted of sweetmeats, and wine, and the copper of mortal blood. And he smiled, and it was bright, brighter than all the other things.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.